Fort Osage couldn’t have been in a better position to win.
The Indians had all the momentum after taking the lead on a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 2:12 remaining in the game.
Antonio Garcia’s sack of Staley quarterback John Raybourn, an incomplete pass and a dropped interception by the Indians led to a fourth-and-17 for the No. 2 state-ranked Falcons. It’s a situation that’s extremely difficult to convert on offense.
Staley found a way.
Raybourn scrambled and found an open 6-foot-4 tight end in Zach Elam as he worked his way open next to the left sideline for a 26-yard catch and a first down at the Fort 23. That eventually set a game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass from Raybourn to JD Benbow, who juggled the ball then caught it with 46 seconds left. The Falcons followed with a two-point conversion and held off Fort Osage for a 22-15 Suburban Middle Six football victory Friday at Staley High School.
“They made the play and we didn’t,” Fort Osage coach Brock Bult said of the fourth-and-17 conversion. “It wasn’t just that play, we dropped a pick earlier in the drive that would have won it for us. If we make that play, that one doesn’t ever happen.
“They have great receivers and a great quarterback. (Raybourn) has the ability to scramble, and hopefully we get another shot at them.”
This came after Staley had appeared to put the game away. Late in the fourth, the Falcons had the ball on the Indians’ 10-yard line. Running back Jaden Moss churned for 9 yards and it appeared he was going to fall forward for a touchdown and put his team up 20-7. However, he fumbled the ball at the goal line and Fort Osage (4-1) recovered in the end zone to give itself new life.
That led to an 80-yard drive that was capped with Isaiah Iloilo 3-yard TD run to make it 14-13. Bult decided to have his team go for the two-point conversion and it paid off when Iloilo plunged into the end zone to give his team a 15-14 advantage with 2:12 left.
“I saw what we looked like with that jumbo formation we had in there,” Bult said, “and I felt confident they could get the 3 yards in that situation. Plus we had three timeouts, so we could kick it off, pin them deep and get a three-and-out.”
Iloilo, who is playing on the defensive line for the first time this season, sometimes gets goal-line carries for the Indians. He said he was amped up to get the opportunity to score the go-ahead conversion.
“I was pretty stoked about that,” Iloilo said. “I knew my line was going to pull through for me. They knew exactly what we needed to do. I trusted them 100 percent and they trusted me.”
But in the end it wasn’t enough against a clutch Staley team that made the big plays when it needed to.
Fort Osage’s defense held a high-powered Staley offense to 364 total yards and stymied the Falcons for much of the first quarter. It wasn’t until the 7:20 mark in the second, when Elam caught a 14-yard pass from Raybourn to make it 7-0 Staley.
As the clock was winding down to the final minute, the Falcons elected to try and pass the ball down the field and go for a late touchdown. It backfired as Fort defensive back Ben Long picked off a pass at midfield with a leaping grab and ran itl back 45 yards to the Staley 5.
On third-and-goal, Baker found Dakota Robinson in the back of the end zone on a play-action pass to tie the game with 15.6 seconds left in the half.
The Falcons retook the lead with 6:04 left in the third when they capped an 81-yard drive with a Raybourn 10-yard TD pass to Mark Robinson in the back of the end zone for a 14-7 edge.
After Staley took the 22-15 lead late, the Indians managed to get the ball to midfield with 20 seconds left, but Baker was sacked on the following play and fumbled the ball back to Staley.
Brandon Gregory led the Fort offense with 86 yards rushing on 15 carries. Baker was 10-for-24 passing with 170 yards and a touchdown.
“This was a great football game between two evenly matched teams,” Bult said. ”One of us had to come out on top. Unfortunately they made the plays and we didn’t.”
Iloilo said he hopes to meet Staley again in the playoffs.
“More than you know, man,” Iloilo said when asked if he wants to play the Falcons again.